An interesting look at town politics on Martha’s Vineyard, but the characters are hard to root for.

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A woman returns to her childhood home on Martha’s Vineyard and soon finds herself embroiled in local drama.

Joanna Howes grew up on Martha’s Vineyard but left to become a journalist in New York City. When her uncle, Hank, injures himself, she returns to the Vineyard to care for him. She plans on only staying in town for a short while before returning to her big-city life, job, and boyfriend, but it turns out Hank’s recovery time is longer than she predicted. He isn’t supposed to put weight on his broken leg, so he needs someone to do pretty much everything around his house—and that someone is Joanna. Joanna takes a freelance job at a local newspaper, but the pay isn’t quite enough to cover her expenses, so she starts writing for a competing paper under another name. The problem? The papers are locked in a bitter rivalry, meaning she has to keep each job a secret from the other. This is hard to do on an island where she grew up and knows just about everyone. When wealthy seasonal resident Orion Smith sues the zoning board for the right to land a helicopter on his property, it’s big news that Joanna must cover for both papers. But, of course, yet another problem presents itself: Joanna falls for the wealthy helicopter owner. He doesn’t know about her secret writing identity, and he also doesn’t know that Joanna’s Uncle Hank is on the zoning board. Galland (Stepdog, 2015, etc.) writes lush and convincing descriptions of life on Martha’s Vineyard in the off-season, and her writing brings to life the struggle between the year-rounders and the summer people. However, the drama of Joanna’s duplicity is never as intense as Joanna acts like it is—very few people who discover her secret even care that she has two jobs. Much more conflict is present in Joanna’s relationship with Orion, who’s presented as a charmer. However, he often comes off as a bully, particularly when he discovers that Joanna’s uncle is on the board he’s suing. He threatens her livelihood, insults her with multiple expletives, and never fully apologizes; yet Joanna and, presumably, the reader are supposed to look past his behavior because he had a difficult upbringing.

An interesting look at town politics on Martha’s Vineyard, but the characters are hard to root for.

Pub Date: Dec. 31, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-267285-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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Another success for the publishing phenom.

UNDER CURRENTS

An abused boy fights back, escapes, then returns as an attorney to his beloved hometown, but just as he’s falling in love with a transplanted landscaper, a series of attacks from shadowy enemies jeopardizes their happiness.

“From the outside, the house in Lakeview Terrace looked perfect.” Which of course means that it wasn't. We're introduced to the horrifying Dr. Graham Bigelow, who beats his wife and, increasingly as the boy gets older, his son, Zane. On the night of Zane’s prom, a particularly savage attack puts him and his sister in the hospital, and his father blames Zane, landing him in jail. Then his sister stands up for him, enlisting the aid of their aunt, and everything changes, mainly due to Zane’s secret diaries. Nearly 20 years later, Zane leaves a successful career as a lawyer to return to Lakeview, where his aunt and sister live with their families, deciding to hang a shingle as a small-town lawyer. Then he meets Darby McCray, the landscaper who’s recently relocated and taken the town by storm, starting with the transformation of his family’s rental bungalows. The two are instantly intrigued by each other, but they move slowly into a relationship neither is looking for. Darby has a violent past of her own, so she is more than willing to take on the risk of antagonizing a boorish local family when she and Zane help an abused wife. Suddenly Zane and Darby face one attack after another, and even as they grow ever closer under the pressure, the dangers become more insidious. Roberts’ latest title feels a little long and the story is slightly cumbersome, but her greatest strength is in making the reader feel connected to her characters, so “unnecessary details” can also charm and engage.

Another success for the publishing phenom.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-20709-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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This thriller about the pursuit of a serial killer suffers from an unpleasant hero and a glacial pace.

OUTFOX

An FBI agent is determined to catch a man who bilks and murders wealthy women, but the chase goes slowly.

Brown (Tailspin, 2018, etc.) has published 70 bestsellers, and this one employs her usual template of thriller spiked with romance. Its main character, Drex Easton, is an FBI agent in pursuit of a serial killer, but for him it’s personal. When he was a boy, his mother left him and his father for another man, Weston Graham. Drex believes Graham murdered her and that he has killed at least seven more women after emptying their bank accounts. Now he thinks he has the clever Graham—current alias Jasper Ford—in his sights, and he’s willing to put his career at risk to catch him. The women Ford targets are wealthy, and his new prey is no exception—except that, uncharacteristically, he has married her. Talia Ford proves to be a complication for Drex, who instantly falls in lust with her even though he’s not at all sure she isn’t her husband's accomplice. Posing as a would-be novelist, Drex moves into an apartment next door to the Fords’ posh home and tries to ingratiate himself, but tensions rise immediately—Jasper is suspicious, and Talia has mixed feelings about Drex's flirtatious behavior. When Talia’s fun-loving friend Elaine Conner turns up dead after a cruise on her yacht and Jasper disappears, Drex and Talia become allies. There are a few action sequences and fewer sex scenes, but the novel’s pace bogs down repeatedly in long, mundane conversations. Drex's two FBI agent sidekicks are more interesting characters than he is; Drex himself is such a caricature of a macho man, so heedless of ethics, and so aggressive toward women that it’s tough to see him as a good guy. Brown adds a couple of implausible twists at the very end that make him seem almost as untrustworthy as Graham.

This thriller about the pursuit of a serial killer suffers from an unpleasant hero and a glacial pace.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4555-7219-9

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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